A little while ago the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft blasted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in its CRS-13 (Cargo Resupply Service 13) mission, also referred to as SPX-13. After just over ten minutes it separated successfully from the rocket’s last stage and went en route. This is the 13th mission for the Dragon spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station with various cargoes and then return to Earth, again with various cargoes.
No space mission can be considered routine but there are some more extraordinary than others. The CRS-13 mission started on a rocket with a used first stage, the first time for a resupply to the International Space Station after NASA engineers examined the refurbishing procedures carried out by SpaceX personnel and found them satisfying. The first stage used for this launch is the same used to start the CRS-11 mission.
Another first time for SpaceX is the launch from the Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), repaired after the damage suffered due to the explosion of a rocket occurred on September 1, 2016. Elon Musk’s company invested several million of dollars also to update the equipment used for the launches and to install better protections and reinforcements.
The Dragon’s spacecraft cargo is almost exactly 2,200 kilograms (more than 4,800 lbs) between the pressurized and non-pressurized sections. There are about 490 kilograms (1,080 lbs) of food and other supplies for the International Space Station crew but most of the cargo consists of instruments, hardware and various other materials needed to science experiments and research conducted aboard the Station.
The biological experiments include PGP (Plant Gravity Perception), an investigation about plants’ reactions to gravity, and Biorasis Glucose Biosensor, an investigation that aims to improve through studies in a microgravity environment an implantable glucose sensor that should allow diabetic people a daily monitoring.
The technological experiments include TSIS (Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor), which aims to measure the amount of solar radiation received on top of the atmosphere and its spectral distribution, and SDS (Space Debris Sensor), a sensor approximately one square meter wide designed to measure debris in the International Space Station area for 2 or 3 years.
The Dragon Spacecraft is now en route to the International Space Station and everything proceeds normally. The arrival at the Station is scheduled for Saturday: at about 11 UTC the Dragon is scheduled to be captured by the Station’s robotic arm. Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage landed successfully at Cape Canaveral but by now almost no one notices anymore.